Top Ten Myths About Scholarships

Mark Kantrowitz

October 02, 2011

Top Ten Myths About Scholarships Top Ten Myths About Scholarships

Only Straight-A Students Win Scholarships

Myth: Only students with the best grades win scholarships.

Reality: Students with better grades are more likely to win scholarships, but B and C students do win some.

Slightly more than half (54.4%) of scholarships are won by students with grades in the A- to A range, a 3.5 to 4.0 grade point average (GPA) on a 4.0 scale. But almost a third (30.0%) are won by students with a B average (3.0 to 3.4 GPA), 8.1% by students with a B- average (2.5 to 2.9 GPA), 6.2% by students with a C average (2.0 to 2.4 GPA) and 1.3% by students with less than a 2.0 GPA.

The odds of winning a scholarship for students with an A average are more than double the odds for students with Bs and Cs, Students with above-average SAT and ACT test scores are twice as likely to win scholarships as students with below average test scores. Two-thirds of private scholarships are won by students with above-average SAT and ACT test scores.

But you can still win scholarships even if your grades aren’t stellar. Less than 10% of private scholarships are based on academic performance. Every scholarship sponsor is looking for the students who best match their criteria. Instead of academic talent, they might be looking for artistic talent or athletic talent or even something a bit unusual.

For example, the Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck at Prom Contest involves making a prom costume out of duct tape. (Most people’s first reaction when they hear about this contest is that the costumes must be gray and boring, but duct tape comes in many colors, a key point of the competition.) Winners are selected based on creativity, originality, workmanship and the quantity of Duck Tape used, not grades. The winners make amazing costumes. Each member of the winning couple wins a $5,000 scholarship.

Majors also matter. Students studying STEM fields (mathematics, engineering and the sciences) are much more likely to win scholarships. Of students enrolled full-time at 4-year colleges, 17.0% of students majoring in STEM win scholarships compared with 12.1% of students majoring in non-STEM fields. More than a third of private scholarships are won by students studying STEM fields.

Next: Most Scholarships are Just for Minority Students

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